By Barry Lord @bazneto
Caroline, I know today I’m still standing at the end of a long queue of friends, family, professional colleagues and fans, all eager to share their favourite memories of you.
I have heard many of them talk about the gifts you possessed as a writer and performer, your generous nature and love for your family and they speak with an authority I don’t have because, unfortunately, I never got the chance to meet you, but the woman they have described sounds like a rare and bright spirit indeed.
I can only talk about what your work has meant to me personally over the years.
In the mid-90s, when your talents began to take root, I was an angry teenager, railing against a world I struggled to relate to, normally found sporting an army surplus jacket, big boots and a Rage against the Machine t-shirt.
My parents worried about the ever widening teenage disconnect that was developing and looked for ways to bridge the gap.
What lured me out of my room, away from my chocolate fingers and Cure CDs, into the living room was – to everyone’s surprise, including mine – a TV chat show featuring a young woman pretending to be a pensioner, albeit one with razor sharp put downs and beautiful comic timing.
The woman’s name was Mrs Merton, played by one Caroline Aherne.
And when Mrs Merton asked Debbie McGee what attracted her to the millionaire Paul Daniels, I, like millions of others, could count myself in her fan base.
Throughout the decade, you graced television shows like the Fast Show with memorable characters, like the all too inquisitive checkout girl and Poula Fisch, the weather presenter for the fictional Channel 9 where the weather was only ever 45 degrees, or ‘scorchio’.
Though a girl from Wythenshawe, Manchester, you always acknowledged your Irish stock, especially in the brilliant character of Sister Mary Immaculate, the nun with a biting line in sarcasm.
It was fitting then that the decade should end with possibly your greatest achievement, as co-writer (with your co-star and chief collaborator Craig Cash) and star of the much loved Royle Family, where your portrayal of the slovenly Denise won you many more admirers and accolades.
Indeed your success in the 90s was all the more admirable given the comic scene at that time. For the 90s was the perceived decade of the ‘lad’, the Loaded magazine reader with the can of lager in his hand, and much of decade’s comedy reflected this image. That you managed to stamp your authority in a decade which left little room for a female comic voice was truly an achievement.
How surprising it was to learn that the woman who made these strides was riddled with insecurities – the kind of neuroses that would sadly manifest themselves in your battle with alcohol and depression.
It was an even bigger testament to your willingness to make others laugh that the cancer you knowingly carried in your body since birth proved no hindrance to your dream of reaching an audience. If anything it was the fuel that made you want to go further.
You built an amazing body of work and now tragically, after 52 short years, your work is done.
Another famous Mancunian sang about a light that never goes out. I hope wherever you are, someone is making damn sure your light never fades.
Rest in peace.